BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Congressman Dave Loebsack made an afternoon stop at the ever-growing Woodland Heights in the peak of election season and said he was impressed with the community spirit behind the effort.
Woodland Heights is a subdivision construction project of Green Oak Development, owned by Michael and Jillian Mohrfeld of Fort Madison. Thirteen of the 23 units that are part of the current subdivision perched on top of the bluffs overlooking Fort Madison and the Mississippi River valley, are already sold. Mohrfeld broke ground on the new housing in May of 2017.
An open house has been set at Woodland Heights for Nov. 3-5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“They, to me, demonstrate what entrepreneurship is all about in this country,” Loebsack said. “They’ve taken a lot of risk and some chances, but it looks awfully nice to me. To see something like this happening is inspirational because we can actually build new homes and people will buy them and occupy them and I think it will help rejuvenate the economy. It really speaks to the community spirit here.”
Mohrfeld said he subcontracts the major pieces of construction like concrete and framing, but the finishers and painters are Mohrfeld employees. The family also owns Mohrfeld Electric in Fort Madison so a lot of the work is being done by that staff. The project has an $8 million price tag.
“I think it’s fantastic that you folks took the risk and did this,” Loebsack said on the tour. “It’s what communities need, this type of construction and activity. As I said earlier, this brings people in with new construction in an old town. This is a great opportunity for people moving into the area.”
Dennis Fraise, Chief Operating Officer with Lee County Economic Development Group, said the homes provide a market for company executives and doctors.
“There are plant managers that have already moved up here,” he said. “It’s a big issue. Our industries have really good positions, but the housing doesn’t sometimes match the position. Something like this is huge because it’s a recruitment issue and I know, even for the hospital when you look at physicians, it’s important to have housing that fits the bill,” Fraise said.
He said the project brings energy to the city.
“Just when you drive up here and look at this, you’re like, ‘Whoa’.”
Mohrfeld said Green Oak started with the fertilizer plant and the 6,000 people that were going to build that facility needed housing. He said he knew he wouldn’t be building specifically for them, because they would be temporary. But there would need to be housing in the area.
“Real estate has been stagnant in Fort Madison with the newest construction being about 40 years ago,” Mohrfeld said. “Then the fertilizer plant came in and that was 6,000 people. We knew we weren’t building for them, but buyers were going to take a risk and say, ‘Hey I can pay down on this and then sublet it. We knew there would be different plays to get those workers housed,” Mohrfeld said.
The Woodland Heights condominiums have two- and three-car garages. Three of the buildings have three condos each, while seven of the buildings have two units each. Three of the two units are single level on grade and the rest are split levels with walkout basements. All the condos are maintenance-free and are situated around a pond that has been stocked with fish and has a gathering area with led lighting along the decorative fencing that borders the pond.
“The image is the empty nesters and retirees, but the truth is we’ve got a couple executives up here and the doctors that work 65 hours a week, they don’t want to mow the lawn. This is responding to the professionals as much as anything,” Mohrfeld said.